Autistic Howell student denied a time to "shine!"

     Michael Zuppardo is a 18 year old student of Howell High. If there is one thing my son loves its BOWLING!!!!! Mike has been in Howell High school for 4 years and next year will be his last year. Three years ago, Mike tried out for the Howell High School bowling team and didn't make it. He was ok with this and accepted it like a champ. Mike didn't give up there, he tried out the following season and again didn't make it. This was upsetting to him, he felt he did well and was disappointed with the decision (a few others were shocked with the decision too, feeling he did very well). That didn't keep him down, he was determined to try again the following year.

     Well, here we are in the 3rd year of tryouts. I would like to say first off, that I sent the bowling coach an email on October 16, 2013 and explained the importance of Mike possibly making the team. My son wants to be a "regular" kid and hang out with the cool kids. Being part of a team would be an important aspect to Mike's ability to grow as an young autistic adult. I was shocked when I didn't receive a response!!!!

      It was very hard as parents to hear from your son "I don't know why I didn't make it, I got in the 100's for scores." I called the school the following day. I wanted answers for Mike!! I was told that there are not many spots for the team and unfortunately he just didn't make it. Well, that wasn't a good enough answer for me!!!

     Here you have a child, who is the type of student that represents the "spirit" of Howell High. Mike doesn't ask for much, but when he does its something in his heart. I spoke to school officials and begged for Mike to be part of the team in anyway possible. Finally, they had something for me. The game plan was Mike would be able to participate in the practices, be a guest bowler at a couple of games, and receive a team shirt. Great!!! Mike was so excited and couldn't wait to start.

     My husband took him for a new ball and he began practicing, 3 strikes off the bat (with a new ball). I received a call on Monday the 6th, a day before the first practice. The call was not a good one. Sorry to inform you Mike can't bowl with the team nor can he practice. The explanation I received was Mike traveling with the team would be a "liability" for the school, since he wasn't on the roster.

      So now again I was to tell my son, sorry your not on the team (the school told him, I wasn't going to see that sad face yet again). Mike still wants to try out again next year. I hear all the time about "inclusion not exclusion." Even if my attempt to help Mike succeed in bowling fails, I would to have possibly given other students like Mike a chance to shine. 

Lisa January 14, 2014 at 10:57 AM
1. Sorry Mama-Bear, but I think you've over-stepped your bounds on this one. My your own admission, "you" were not happy with the news that your son didn't make the cut. Your son, though certainly disappointed, seemed to handle the news with grace and perseverance (this was his 3rd tryout - you should be proud that you've helped teach him to lose graciously and try again - that is an admirable quality in anyone). But when you contacted the coach looking for special consideration for your son and called the school begging for your son to be included anyway possible, you crossed the line. You became "THAT" parent. I do feel for your son. Your son got a raw deal when the school reneged on their offer to him. It sounds, to me, that the school made the offer to appease you, but then changed it's mind or as another suggested, that it was in violation of some MHSAA bylaw. Either way, you still had the unenviable job of having to take away the excitement of being a part of the bowling team from your son. And that stinks. Instead of focusing on getting your son onto the school's bowling team, look for teams and/or leagues your son can participate in - to be a real part of, not just a part-time practicer.
El Bruno January 14, 2014 at 11:12 AM
I too have an autistic grandson who has suffered all of his life for a place to fit in. He is such a sweet, great kid, who has a heart of gold. He has a hard time making friends. Does anyone out there know of any social groups for autistic children in the Montgomery or Bucks County area for him to be a part of? Maybe we could form one and let all the children be on a bowling team or whatever else there interests are. The parents of non-autistic children can't even imagine what they good through. Look up on your computer all of the adult people that have made it big and are very well known to everyone. I believe God has given them special qualities which make them "Special" and they are referred to as "special needs children." Any gatherings would be very much appreciated. Thank you.
s January 15, 2014 at 06:15 AM
Deana-IEP does not give you a spot on a sports team. However, all schools are required under law to allow students with disabilities to try out for their school teams. In some instances, students have made sports teams, and also others have not. They are not, however, guaranteed placement on a sports team because of any disability. FYI Mikey has been made the team manager of the HHS bowling team. Having two kids in HHS myself, I knew it would all work out, sometimes these things take time with meetings and discussions between parents, student, adminstration and coaches. I think thats how it should have been handled from the beginning.
Travis Johnson January 15, 2014 at 06:54 AM
The right thing was done and that is a good thing...sometimes people need some prompting to see the light...as long as people remain open and compassionate these stories will stop being treated as the exception...socialisation is part of the high school experience and we should ALWAYS be teaching our children to be WHOLE humans...not just about winning...
Sarah January 15, 2014 at 10:45 PM
Did anyone think this has to do with his skill and not whether he is autistic? Plenty of people who suffer no disabilities are cut from teams all the time, and their parents don't declare war on the school systems because of it. You have to have a certain skill level to be accepted onto a team, and that's that... maybe he just doesn't make it up to par? Maybe I'm reading this wrong, but this seems like a mom who thinks her child should get whatever they want, whenever, and not a case of "discrimination" like it's being made out to be. Who knows.


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